100 Paper NY Times = 1 Heavy Textbook

Alana Taylor, a journalism student at NYU, blogged about one of her classes:

Quigley [the teacher] tells us we have to remember to bring in the hard copy of the New York Times every week. I take a deep sigh. Every single journalism class at NYU has required me to bring the bulky newspaper. I don’t understand why they don’t let us access the online version, get our current events news from other outlets, or even use our NYTimes app on the iPhone. Bringing the New York Times pains me because I refuse to believe that it’s the only source for credible news or Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism and it’s a big waste of trees. . . I am taking the only old-but-new-but-still-old media class in the country.

Yeah. The same thing goes on all over campus where students are required to buy a heavy glossy textbook that costs about a semester of paper New York Times. As if the same info wasn’t free on the Web.

Long ago, textbooks were a fantastic bargain because they cost so much less than private tutors. And private tutors disappeared.

After Taylor’s unflattering piece, her thin-skinned professor, who had said “it’s essential for journalists to blog”, banned blogging about the class.

5 Replies to “100 Paper NY Times = 1 Heavy Textbook”

  1. There may have been one course I took in college which required me to take the textbook to class: Chinese, where repetition was a large goal of the meetings. Most value adding classes these days definitely shouldn’t require the physical presence of textbooks, but the collection of a coherent pedagogy at home can be more useful than a thousand wiki pages from a thousand authors.

    I can already get most of my textbooks electronically, but they really just aren’t the same. With a book, for example, you can flip through at the correct prior-knowledge-adjusted rate until you find the page you know is there. It’s not so easy currently with ebooks.

  2. NE1, yeah, the web is incoherent. But I agree with Taylor, any journalist should be able to find news on the web, no need to have the NY Times figure it out for you. Isn’t journalism about news gathering? That’s why this example is so telling. Likewise for many subjects. For example, isn’t science about gathering info?

  3. I don’t think you should be so down on textbooks. I like some textbooks a lot–not just my own, also other books such as Lohr’s survey sampling book. Googling just doesn’t give you the clear info you can get from a coherent book.

  4. Andrew, I like some textbooks a lot, too — for example, Calculus by Ralph Palmer Agnew. Feynman’s Lectures on Physics were interesting (if problematic for teaching problem solving). But the textbooks I like are a tiny fraction of all textbooks. I think the replacement for heavy textbooks is careful selection of more focussed material. That’s what I did when I taught intro psych. I didn’t use a heavy textbook, I used a bunch of smaller books, such as Obedience by Milgram.

Comments are closed.